By BRUCE DENNILL
Cape Town singer-songwriter Kristi Lowe returned to the pop domain in 2020 with the release of her single Take Me Away. A poignant ballad about struggling with the loss of a loved one and learning to navigate through life without them, it is at once both uplifting and emotionally charged – sad in places but also an ode to hope and redemption.
“Influence” is a loaded, often misunderstood concept. An artist may sound similar to another but have no knowledge of them, or be a super-fan of someone whose output is completely different to their own. Who or what was the artist, album, song, era or scene that initially mapped out the road to you becoming a musician?
I have always been a lover of soulful music that is vocally driven. In particular, I have always found myself drawn to powerful female vocals and lyrics that are emotive and relatable – and that’s definitely influenced the way in which I write my own music. Artists such as Adele, Christina Aguilera, Beyonce, Celine Dion and Whitney Houston have inspired me, both in my writing and in my desire to grow and develop my vocal range and skill. Not only are these the artists that I most enjoy listening to and taking inspiration from, they are also the artists whose songs I most enjoy performing. Songs such as Adele’s Don’t You Remember, Lady Gaga’s Shallow and Christina Aguilera’s Hurt are some of the songs I get most swept up in when I am performing – both in the way they allow me to fully explore my vocal capabilities, and in the way they challenge me to feel and express all the passion and emotion with which the songs were written.
Has that changed over the years? If so, how and why, and what are you currently exploring?
The influence of these artists and my love for their music has not dissipated as I have started exploring different genres and sounds. Rather, my love for different types of sounds has grown and expanded to include more variety. I love listening to and performing jazz pieces. I also enjoy pop and dance music that is vocally driven.
Name one song you wish you’d written or one you’d like to be known as the definitive interpreter of. What makes that song so important?
There are many, however Bound To You by Christina Aguilera is a song that I have always loved. It’s poignant and beautiful, but with has much passion and emotion – both in the lyrics and the vocal delivery of the song. It’s a song I performed at one of my sister’s fundraisers and will always be a song that is close to my heart.
In production and arrangement terms, what are facets of your music and the music you love most by others that you feel are crucially important in terms of creating the mood you’re after or supporting the message of your song?
In ballads such as Take Me Away I have always felt that minimalistic production is best, so as not to detract or distract from the lyrics and main vocal. The song has so much meaning and I wanted the lead vocal to be dominant in the arrangement and supported by piano and strings. I have always really enjoyed Adele’s ballads as the focus is on the interaction between the vocal and the piano and I love the mood that creates.
Which aspects of your music do you prioritise? For you, would you rather have that your lyrics, your melodies, or your vocals or instrumental work are the are the most memorable parts of your songs?
For me, as a singer and songwriter, I always put the most effort into my lyrics and vocals. I feel that, for me, the most memorable songs or parts of a song are usually powerful emotive vocals or truly touching, authentic lyrics, and that is what I hope to achieve in all of my writing.
What is the story behind Take Me Away – the genesis of the song, the people involved, the muse behind its creation?
Take Me Away is the first single I’ve produced since the death of my sister, Jenna, in 2015. Jenna was the reason I started singing, as she was diagnosed with a terminal lung condition when she was 17 and we needed to raise funds and awareness in order to save her life. In an effort to do just that we launched a single I Need More Time, produced by Goodluck, which reached the Top 3 on South African iTunes within a week. I was given some incredible opportunities and performed at a number of prestigious events and venues. However, when Jenna died, I decided to take a step back from my music. Recently, after taking a few years to heal, I have re-discovered my passion for music and have started singing and writing once again. Take Me Away is the first single I’ve produced since I have started writing again. It is a poignant ballad about struggling with the loss of a loved one and learning to navigate through life without them, and it is dedicated to my sister. It has been a difficult journey finding my way back to my music, but it has also been immensely healing, and I cannot wait to share more of myself and my journey through the beautiful, healing power of music.